Storybook imagery—foreboding woods, looming giants, and creatures of forest and sea—collides with desperately real circumstances as a family seeks haven from encroaching war. As Sanna’s debut opens, a family of four builds a vast sand castle city at the beach as inky waters pour in ominously. Those waves transform into swiping, grabbing hands on the following page (“Every day bad things started happening around us”), and the children’s father is soon killed. After the family decides to leave for a faraway country, Sanna traces their long journey, devoting attention to the children’s reluctance to leave behind familiar surroundings and the sheer difficulty of their effort. “The further we go... the more we leave behind,” she writes as the family switches from vehicle to vehicle, sometimes hiding beneath fruit or clay jugs. Sanna’s crisp-edged, screenprintlike forms strike a careful balance between representing visceral dangers and offering tiny measures of hope. Given the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and immigration debates in the U.S. and abroad, Sanna’s story is well poised to spark necessary conversations about the costs of war. Ages 3–7. (Sept.)
Winner of the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Author Honor and New Illustrator Honor Awards!
SELECTED AS AN ALSC NOTABLE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF 2017
SELECTED FOR THE 2017 USBBY OUTSTANDING INTERNATIONAL BOOKS LIST
INCLUDED IN CCBC CHOICES 2017
A The New York Times' NOTABLE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF 2016THE
A WALL STREET JOURNAL'S BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF 2016
A Publisher’s Weekly'S BEST BOOKS OF 2016
A Kirkus Reviews' BEST PICTURE BOOKS OF 2016
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AN ALL THE WONDERS' BEST PICTURE BOOKS OF 2016
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A CHICKADEE LIT'S PICTURE BOOKS TO CELEBRATE KINDNESS
"We cannot imagine a better way to introduce children ages 5 - 7 to the piercing realities of becoming a refugee. We wish that this book was required reading for every single official making decisions that affect migrants."—Spirituality and Practice
"Given the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and immigration debates in the U.S. and abroad, Sanna’s story is well poised to spark necessary conversations about the costs of war."
—Publisher’s Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
"Simultaneously heartbreaking, scary, and brightly hopeful, this timely tale with simply captivating artwork will spur little ones to ask questions that lack easy answers."
—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
"A necessary, artful, and searing story."
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
"Gorgeously stylized, spare and powerful"
—Shelf Awareness, STARRED REVIEW
"The crisp blend of realistic and fantastical illustrations in Sanna’s debut picture book impart as much content and emotional depth as its carefully woven text narrated by an anonymous child. […] Based on a compilation of immigrant interviews, this selection is timely and beautiful, appropriate for use with young children given the continuing situation of refugees around the world made particularly visible in recent years."
—School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
"Sanna’s stylized illustrations, with gargantuan villains and swirling inky black, are both captivating and unsettling."
—The Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW
"[Francesca Sanna’s artwork] is both realistic and fantastical, done in a striking, graphic style. "The Journey" will be a wonderful teaching tool for those who are welcoming refugees into their community. For those who have escaped war, this book might prompt them to share their own stories."
—The New York Times
"The anguish of a family seeking refuge from war and trying to reach safer shores unfurls with heartbreaking directness in The Journey, a beautiful picture book by Francesca Sanna."
—Wall Street Journal
"The Journey offers a beautiful message to readers — young and old alike — about the difficulties of finding a new home, and the value of welcoming strangers once they arrive."
—The Washington Post
"A book that explores the heart wrenching need to abandon one's home amid war."
"startling, poignant […] It’s a story that has lingered in my mind since I first read it, and I think it will be there a long while."
—Julie Danielson for Kirkus Reviews
"Through beautiful and powerful illustrations, The Journey vividly explores the universal story of all those who have had to leave behind the place and people they love."
—The Guardian, The Best Children's Books of 2016
"[The Journey] is a brightly colored and beautifully illustrated tale on a dark and frightening topic. […] The contrasting pictures and words are likely to inspire conversation, asking children and adults alike to discuss the topic of conflict and the plight of refugees the world over. I’d highly recommend the use of this book in an educational setting. Francesca Sanna is an illustrator to keep an eye on."
—Portland Book Review
"Haunting illustrations chronicle one refugee family's harrowing escape from the darkness of war. A tale of love, courage, and perseverance."
—The New York Public Library
"This powerful look at flight follows one family from their homeland. Traveling by bike, by car, even hidden in a truck bed, they eventually reach their destination only to face a looming guard and an insurmountable wall. While the time and place are never definite, the sadness and uncertainty are real."
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The potent, matter-of-fact narrative becomes even more powerful set against striking illustrations that are stylized, beautiful, and harrowing. [...] Over and over the emotional weight of the story is conveyed through affecting, sometimes heart-rending images juxtaposed with the voice of innocence."
—Cooperative Children's Book Center, CCBC's Book of the Week
"5 STARS [...] Hauntingly beautiful […] emotionally charged […] This is the perfect book to read to kids, to teach them about what is going on in the world today."
—Youth Services Book Review
"What a beautiful and haunting book. This story of a family that loses its home and father to war and must set out for a safer home might not be a soothing bedtime tale, but for a child curious about the word "refugee," I can hardly think of a more delicate and powerful introduction."
—NW Book Lovers
"[The Journey] is a powerful book that is sure to encourage conversations with young readers about the struggles children living in unsafe environments currently face."
"This story was created to bring light to the recent refugee crisis in our world, and approaches the issue with incredible grace and metaphor. Debut Italian author/illustrator Francesca Sanna weaves a heartbreaking and hopeful tale with her beautiful words and illustrations."
"An honest and engaging portrait of what a refugee family goes through to get to a safe place to live."
—Spirituality and Practice
"MUST-READ PICTURE BOOK OF THE YEAR [...] Not only is it an important work in children’s literature, but it’s an important story that needs to be read to people of all ages. […] It’s a story that serves as both a mirror and a window into an epic adventure of strength and fortitude unlike any picture book you may ever read."
—Sturdy For Common Things
"A beautifully illustrated picture book that deftly explores the unimaginable decisions made as a family leave their home and everything they know to escape the turmoil and tragedy brought by war."
"The story we read about in The Journey is universal and timely"
—Let's Talk Picture Books
Sanna’s prose is lyrical yet sparse enough to emphasize the harsh and abrupt changes that the family experiences, and she has created a beautiful interplay of words and pictures. [...] All of the illustrations are beautifully layered and textured with color, pattern, and meaning.
"Francesca Sanna creates images that evoke the cost of war to all who are threatened by it. […] Emotional, often stark, yet also hopeful, they will allow readers to share the emotions felt by the many refugee families looking for shelter and safety."
—Sal's Fiction Addiction
"[The Journey] is a powerful look at the refugee experience"
—Mindy Rhiger, Proper Noun Blog
"This beautifully universal refugee story is essential reading."
—Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books & Music
"What a beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, necessary book."
—Hannah DeCamp, Avid Bookshop
"Chilling, haunting, and hopeful, this book will resonate with readers long after they’ve closed the cover."
—Marika McCoola, Porter Square
"I am so grateful for this candid, colorful and graceful telling of a family's fleeing of home that transcends any specific time in history or place on earth to welcome us all into its pages and its story of common courage and hope."
—Joanna Parzakonis, Bookbug
"Sanna met refugee children and combined their stories to create this brilliant book told from a child’s perspective – but with an awareness of an adult’s perspective too. […] The story has darkness, and fear, and worry, and shows the heartbreaking decisions families have to make when they’re trying to stay alive. There are also moments of strength and hope."
—Vine & Figtree
"It’s not just children who require stories like these in order to better understand current events and the world around us. Politicians, and bigots, and other grownups with hardened hearts who’ve forgotten how to be human—these are the readers who need to read these books in order to remember that people are people, some things are universal, and also that books are amazing."
—Pickle Me This
"The Journey will make you appreciate your life and think about ways you can help others who are not as lucky."
A timely, powerful picture book about refugees.Although the setting’s time and place are unspecified, the story of a widowed mother fleeing a war-torn homeland with her two children reverberates with the real-world experiences of contemporary Syrian refugees and others crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. The family members have black hair and pale skin, and the mother takes advice from a friend who wears the hijab, though her own hair is uncovered. They travel by car, by bicycle, hidden in the backs of trucks, and on foot until they reach a wall, where a border guard prevents them from crossing. Here, expressive, posterlike art renders the guard a monstrously tall, red-bearded man who towers over the wall and sends the family back into the forest. In a heart-rending spread, facing pages depict the mother cradling her children on the verso as the child narrator confides, “In the darkness the noises of the forest scare me,” while on the recto the child continues, “But my mother is with us and she is never scared”—with a picture of the family in the same huddled pose but with the children now asleep and tears streaming from the mothers’ eyes. After a dangerous sea crossing, the family moves with hope toward a safer place, though there is no certain happily-ever-after resolution. A necessary, artful, and searing story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-12)